Sunday, August 20, 2017

Toni Erdmann

Written and directed by Maren Ade, Toni Erdmann is the story of a woman who gets an unexpected visit from her father as he tries to reconnect with her by pretending to be a life coach for a CEO she’s trying to do business with. The film is an exploration of a father-daughter relationship in which a man returns to the life of his estranged daughter who wants little to do with her father as she’s trying to go for her own ambitions. Starring Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller, Ingrid Bisu, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Lucy Russell, and Vlad Ivanov. Toni Erdmann is an offbeat and engaging film from Maren Ade.

The film follows a man who spontaneously decides to visit his businesswoman daughter from his small German home to Bucharest, Romania where she is not happy with the surprise business just as she’s trying to finish a business deal. During his time with her, he would create a persona by pretending to be a life coach for a CEO by sporting a wig and false teeth creating chaos wherever he is at. The film’s screenplay by writer/director Maren Ade doesn’t just explore the diverging lifestyles of Winifried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) and his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) but also Ines’ own ambition in being a consultant in this outsourcing project in the oil industry in Bucharest. Her work leaves her little time to be with family as well as having a life of her own to socialize or do anything spontaneous. When Winifried arrives to Bucharest following the death of his dog unexpectedly, Ines is in shock as she reluctantly has her father accompanying her where things don’t go well.

Much of the first act is about Winifried and Ines as the former accompanies the latter who is trying to get a deal going while the second act is about the persona that Winifried has created in a life coach called Toni Erdmann. Erdmann’s presence would baffle and annoy Ines as he would charm not just some colleagues but also those she’s trying to deal with. Even as she is forced to deal with aspects of her own life that is unfulfilling and often predictable as it would come into play during the film’s third act. Though some of scenes that Ade creates in the script can be overly stretched due to the exploration of the characters as it can meander. It does help show this unique relationship between father and daughter that is problematic but also filled with love.

Ade’s direction for the film is offbeat in terms of her approach to the humor and drama as she would create things that are odd but also moments that are simple. Shot partially on location in rural parts of Germany as much of the film is shot mainly in and around Bucharest. Ade plays into this world that is very modern which Ines is a part of as it’s confusing for someone like Winifried who used to be a hippie that teaches part-time to school children. Much of Ade’s compositions are straightforward as there’s a few wide shots as Ade would favor the usage of close-ups and medium shots while she knows what to do to create something that feels chaotic and spontaneous. Much of it has Ade taking her time where it would lag in certain parts of the film while there are moments that show what Winifried would do as Erdmann does break away from some of the monotony in Ines’ life.

One scene where Ines is having dinner with friends as Erdmann is in the background trying to move his table closer as it is quite funny while the scene where Erdmann and Ines visit a Romanian family on Easter show Ines starting to come out of the shell she had created. Especially in the third act where Ines is forced to see the lack of freedom in her life with her father still just trying to be there for his daughter. Overall, Ade creates a witty yet compelling film about a man trying to bring some chaos into his daughter’s overworked life.

Cinematographer Patrick Orth does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s straightforward for many of the scenes in the daytime along with some lighting for some of the scenes at night including a few parties and such. Editor Heike Parplies does nice work with the editing as it is straightforward with very little stylistic cuts in favor to play into the drama and some of the humor. Production designer Silke Fischer, with set decorator Katja Schlomer and art director Malina Ionescu, does fantastic work with the look of the hotel room that Ines lives in the city as well as her apartment as well as the messy house that Winifried lives in.

Costume designer Gitti Fuchs does terrific work with the costumes as it mostly casual with everyone wearing business suits or designer dresses as the big highlight comes in someone wearing this Bulgarian kukeri costume. Sound editor Fabian Schmidt, with sound designers Erik Mischijew and Matz Muller, does superb work with the sound as it play into the different locations and how they’re presented via sound as much of the music in the film is played on location with the exception of the Cure’s Plainsong for the film’s final credits.

The casting by Viorica Capdefier, Nina Haun, and Amanda Tabak is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Vlad Ivanova as a Romanian local living near an oil well that Winifried befriends, Hadewych Minis as a Romanian woman Winifried meets as he attends her Easter party, Victoria Cocias as a friend of Ines, Thomas Loibl as Ines’ boss Gerald, Trystan Putter as a colleague and sometimes lover of Ines in Tim, Lucy Russell as a friend/colleague of Ines in Steph, Michael Winttenborn as a CEO named Hennenberg that Ines is trying make a deal with, and Ingrid Bisu as Ines’ young assistant Anca who tries make everything goes to plan for Ines as well as deal with Winifried. 

Sandra Huller is brilliant as Ines as a business consultant trying to deal with the chaos in her work life as well as the lack of free time for herself as she is annoyed by the presence of her father as it forces her to see how predictable and dull her life is. Finally, there’s Peter Simonischek in an amazing performance as Winifried as a former music teacher who deals with the death of his dog and lack of contact with his daughter as he decides to surprise her as it’s a calm though offbeat performance for the most part until he becomes the titular character where he is just full of life and absolute chaos.

Toni Erdmann is a marvelous film from Maren Ade. Featuring great performances from Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller as well as captivating story of a man trying to reconnect with his overworked daughter. It’s a film that explores the idea of spontaneity in life as well as the need to not have everything in control though the film does go overlong in some bits. In the end, Toni Erdmann is a remarkable film from Maren Ade.

Maren Ade Films: (The Forest for the Trees) – (Everyone Else)

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Elle (2016 film)

Based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Dijan, Elle is the story of a woman who has been raped as she decides not to tell her incident to the police in favor of handling the matter herself. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and screenplay by David Birke, the film is an exploration of a woman dealing with the aftermath of a rape as well as the need for justice on her own terms. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, and Virginie Efira. Elle is a gripping yet haunting film from Paul Verhoeven.

The film follows a businesswoman who had been raped in her home as she tries to find the man who raped her as she doesn’t want to report the incident to the police due to her previous experiences with the police. It’s a film that explores a woman not just dealing with what happened to her but also being very cool about it as she would tell a few friends over what happened but mostly keep it to herself for others while carrying on with her life. David Birke’s screenplay follows the character of Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), who runs a video game company with her friend Anna (Anne Consigny), who ventures into this investigation to see who raped her and why as she also copes with the turmoil in her family life as her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) is in a relationship with a domineering woman in Josie (Alice Isaaz) who is pregnant and possibly unfaithful. While Michele is still friendly towards her ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling), she is having an affair with Anna’s husband Robert (Christian Berkel) that proves to be unfulfilling while having a crush on her neighbor Patrick (Laurent Lafitte).

Michele is a very offbeat character where she acts quite passive at times who will often make some very darkly humorous comments as it relates to the fact that she had a troubled past as a child. It’s among the reasons why she and her mother Irene (Judith Magre) have an uneasy relationship as the latter is spending her time with younger lovers while wanting Michele to make contact with her estranged father. Yet, Michele isn’t an easy person to like as she can be bitchy in a cool and calm way while she would say things that would offend people. It all play into the fact that she hiding things about herself as some of Birke’s dialogue show how she can make darkly-comic comments as a way to mask herself from any kind of danger. Still, she has to contend with the fact that she’s been raped as she has her suspects and their possible motives but would also wonder if she brought this on herself.

Paul Verhoeven’s direction is definitely riveting from the way he opens the film with Michele being raped as it is her cat that is watching it not knowing what to do. It is a very odd way to open the film yet Verhoeven doesn’t mince anything into what is happening and then follow Michele in the days after the rape. Shot on location in Paris as well as areas near the city, Verhoeven creates a film that plays into a woman dealing with being raped as she tries to maintain her day-to-day activities. While there are some wide shots in the film, Verhoeven would go for more intimate shots with the close-ups and medium shots to play into the world that Michele is in as well as the idea of fantasy and reality colliding. Notably in the former as there’s a recreation of the moment in which Michele is raped where she would kill her rapist as well as other moments relating toward her attraction to Patrick. Verhoeven would also show another perspective of that opening sequence as it started off as any typical day until Michele’s attacker comes in as Verhoeven would use a Steadicam shot to capture the incident from this other perspective.

Verhoeven would also inject moments of dark humor as it relate to not just Michele’s own reaction to her rape and bits of her life. There is a scene at her work place where an animation of a monster raping a female character with Michele’s face is on display as it add some intrigue to who Michele thinks is her rapist. There are also these tense moments in which Michele is saying things that would upset people but also indicate how detached she is from those who care about her. The film’s third act isn’t just about the reveal of her rapist but also her own reaction to that man’s identity as it adds an ambiguity that does feel odd. Even as the rapist would be around her socializing as if nothing had happened with no one but her knowing his identity as it just adds this air of dramatic chaos in which Michele is forced to confront what happened to her and make sense of the choices she’s made in her life. Overall, Verhoeven crafts a very eerie yet evocative film about a woman trying to find the man who raped her.

Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the array of lighting for many of the interior/exterior settings at night including the Christmas lights at Patrick’s home to the naturalistic look of the scenes set in the day. Editor Job ter Burg does brilliant work with the editing as it does have some stylistic moments in the jump-cuts while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Laurent Ott and set decorator Cecile Vatelot do fantastic work with the look of Michele’s home as well as her work place and some of the homes and places she goes to. Costume designer Nathalie Raoul does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly straightforward aside from some of the clothes that Michele wears in social gatherings.

Visual effects supervisors Philippe Frere, Hugues Namur, and Nicholas Rey do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it mostly involve a sequence of Michele driving in the woods. Sound editor Alexis Place does superb work with the sound as it play into some of the suspense as well as the drama including a scene involving strong winds and another scene that play into Michele’s own suspicions around her. The film’s music by Anne Dudley is amazing for its haunting orchestral score that help play into the suspense and drama without the need to be heard in some scenes while music supervisor Elise Luguern provide a soundtrack filled with some classical and opera music from the likes of Serge Rachmaninoff and Ludwig Van Beethoven to contemporary music from Iggy Pop and Roxy Music.

The casting by Constance Demontoy is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Raphael Lenglet as Irene’s much-younger lover, Arthur Mazet as programmer named Kevin who works secretly for Michele to uncover some of the hacking at the work place, Lucas Prisor as a game designer named Kurt who dislikes Michele, Vimala Pons as Richard’s new girlfriend Helene, Alice Isaaz as Vincent’s pregnant yet angry girlfriend Josie whom Michele doesn’t like very much, and Judith Magre as Michele’s mother Irene as a woman who is trying to maintain her youthfulness despite her testy relationship with Michele. Jonas Bloquet is terrific as Richard and Michele’s son Vincent as a young man trying to get his apartment as he deals with his girlfriend Josie as well as the revelations in being a father. Virginie Efra is superb as Patrick’s wife Rebecca as a woman who is always kind as well as serve as a figure of goodness that is rarely in Michele’s world as well as being a figure of faith.

Christian Berkel is excellent as Robert as Anna’s husband who is quite perverse in his flirtations with Michel as he is someone that is creepy as well as making Michele feel loathsome. Anne Consigny is fantastic as Anna as Michele’s longtime friend/business partner who is concerned about Michele’s well-being as she feels that Michele should report the rape to the police. Charles Berling is brilliant as Michele’s ex-husband Richard as a man who is also concerned about Michele as well as Vincent’s relationship with Josie and his own life where he just want to have Michele’s blessing. Laurent Lafitte is amazing as Patrick as Michele’s neighbor who is quite helpful to Michele as well as be Michele’s object of desire as he has feelings for her but doesn’t want to cheat on his wife. Finally, there’s Isabelle Huppert in a phenomenal performance as Michele as a businesswoman who had been raped as she tries to find the man who raped her while dealing with the many things in her own life as it’s a performance filled with restraint as well as some very offbeat dark humor as it is definitely one of Huppert’s career-defining performances.

Elle is a tremendous film from Paul Verhoeven that features an incredible leading performance from Isabelle Huppert. Filled with a witty yet eerie script, subtle yet gripping suspense, a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, and a sumptuous music score. It’s a film that plays with the convention of a suspense-drama while being a character study of a woman dealing with being a rape victim that adds to her already troubled life. In the end, Elle is a spectacular film from Paul Verhoeven.

Paul Verhoeven Films: (Business is Business) – (Turkish Delight) – (Keetje Tippel) – (Soldier of Orange) – (All Things Pass) – (Spetters) – (The Fourth Man) – (Flesh and Blood) – (Robocop) – (Total Recall) – (Basic Instinct) – (Showgirls) – (Starship Troopers) – (Hollow Man) – (Black Book) – (Tricked)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tokyo Twilight

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Tokyo Twilight is the story of two sisters who reunite with their mother after she had abandoned them when they were children as they both deal with their own lives. The film is a look into the life of a family as they cope with this sudden reunion as well as changes in their lives. Starring Setsuko Hara, Ineko Arima, Chishu Ryu, Isuzu Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Nobuo Nakamura, and Haruko Sugimura. Tokyo Twilight is an evocative and touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows the life of a banker in Tokyo who has two adult daughters as the eldest had just moved in with him with her two-year-old daughter due to her unhappy marriage where she and her younger sister learn that their mother has returned to Tokyo having been presumed dead for years. It’s a family drama that explores a family life that goes into chaos though there are several things the two women in the family are both dealing with as the eldest sister in Takako (Setsuko Hara) is taking care of things at her father’s home while her father Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) continues to work at the bank as he is dealing with the death of a colleague. The script by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda also explores the private pain that Takako’s younger sister Akiko (Ineko Arima) is dealing with as she is pregnant as her college boyfriend Kenji (Masami Taura) wants nothing to do with her.

During a search to find Kenji, she goes to a mahjong parlor that is run by a woman name Kisako (Isuzu Yamada) where she claims to know Akiko as she doesn’t tell her that she’s her mother. When Shukichi and Takako invite Shukichi’s sister Shigeko (Haruko Sugimura) that she saw Kisako as Takako learned about what Akiko had been doing though she is unaware of Akiko’s pregnancy. The screenplay would show this meeting between Takako and Kisako as it is filled with tension with the former displaying some resentment over what Kisako had done. Yet, it would set the stage for the emotional journey that Akiko would endure not just her own pregnancy but also revelations about the woman at the mahjong parlor she met.

Ozu’s direction is understated as well as being simple in terms of the compositions he creates and the need to delve into anything stylistic. Shot on location in Tokyo, Ozu would devoid himself of camera movements for the film including no tracking shots or anything of movement. Instead, he just aims a simple static shot to play into the image that he presents where he would use some wide shots for some of the locations in and around Tokyo. Yet, much of what Ozu shoots is with medium shots for much of the film as there’s very little close-ups in order to capture the intimacy and interaction between the characters. Much of is to not dwell too much into the melodrama as it would increase by the film’s third act as it relates to the Takako, Akiko, and Kisako. Ozu would maintain his simple approach to visuals as well as know where to create some offbeat shifts in the story that would seem abrupt but also play into the drama. Especially into what would happen as Ozu is aware of the bleakness that is prevalent in the story but is also aware that life has to continue. Overall, Ozu crafts an intoxicating yet tender film about two women dealing with the re-emergence of their estranged mother.

Cinematographer Yuhara Atsuda does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the beauty of some of the daytime exteriors in Tokyo as well as use some lighting for the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with very little elements of style for something more direct. Art director Tatsuo Hamada does fantastic work with the look of the home of Shukichi as well as the mahjong parlor that Kisako runs. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo is terrific for being very simple and natural without the need to embellish as it very understated and to-the-point. The film’s music by Takanobu Saito is amazing for its orchestral-based score that feature some somber string arrangements to play into the drama while the music also feature some traditional Japanese music and contemporary music played on location.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Seiji Miyaguchi as a police officer, Kamatari Fujiwara as a noodle shop owner who lets Akiko drink at his restaurant during the third act, Kinzo Shin as Takako’s estranged husband who visits Shukichi early in the film, Nobuo Nakamura as Kisako’s new husband Sakae Soma, Masami Taura as Akiko’s cruel college boyfriend Kenji, and Haruko Sugimura in a wonderful performance as Shukichi’s sister Shigeko who would tell her brother and niece in her encounter with Kisako. Isuzu Yamada is fantastic as Kisako as Shukichi’s estranged ex-wife Kisako as a woman who has re-emerged in Tokyo with a new life as she recognizes Akiko though doesn’t tell her who she really is as it’s an understated performance that shows a woman trying to start over.

Chishu Ryu is excellent as Shukichi as a banker who is dealing with the death of his family as well as Akiko’s late arrivals at his home wondering what is happening with his family. Ineko Arima is brilliant as Akiko as a young woman trying to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and a troubled relationship with her boyfriend as well as the revelation about the woman she met at a mahjong parlor. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a radiant performance as Takako as a woman who is separated from her husband as she’s trying to run her father’s house and take care of her two-year old daughter while learning about the re-appearance of her mother as she tries to make sure Akiko doesn’t get herself into any trouble as well as getting her mother to not see Akiko ever again.

Tokyo Twilight is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, evocative visuals, and a somber music score, the film is definitely one of Ozu’s finest films in its exploration of family and middle-class life. Especially as it play into two women dealing with the unexpected return of their estranged mother whom they had believed had died. In the end, Tokyo Twilight is a sensational film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – (Passing Fancy) – (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) – (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Rescue

For the third week of August 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into the theme of rescue as they’re often the kind of films that are always fun to watch as it follow a simple formula that involves the protagonist trying to save someone and do whatever he/she can to kill the fucking bad guys. Here are my picks:

1. Commando

It is one thing to kidnap a young girl from her commando father and force him to kill someone or else the young girl gets killed. Yet, if that commando is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his daughter is Alyssa Milano. Jabroni, you’re going to need a shitload of body bags. This is an absolutely no-holds-barred, in-your-face action film that isn’t afraid to be cheesy nor provide anything other than just explosive action and some great one-liners that any immigrant coming to America can say and learn. After all, who better to show them the way to the American Dream than a man from Austria who says, “I eat Green Berets for breakfast and right now, I’m very hungry”.

2. The Missing

From Ron Howard is an underrated western in which Cate Blanchett teams up with her estranged father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, to retrieve her daughter who had been kidnapped by some evil Apache warriors. It has Blanchett and Jones along with Jenna Boyd travel on horseback to the Mexican border as it’s an adventurous film that features Evan Rachel Wood as Blanchett’s eldest daughter who is kidnapped along with Elisabeth Moss. Ron Howard is often known for making middling, middle-of-the-road Hollywood films but this is one of his better films.

3. Taken

The film that made Liam Neeson an unlikely action star in which he plays a former CIA operative whose daughter had been abducted by some human traffickers who would sell her to sex slavery. It’s a film that has Neeson telling his daughter’s kidnappers in a very quiet voice that he will hunt them down and kill them. The people who kidnap Neeson’s daughter don’t take his threat very seriously and what happens is that they really fucked up. After all, he’s got some very special skills and will use them.

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Against the Crowd Blog-a-thon 2017

It’s time once again for the Against the Crowd Blog-a-thon hosted by Wendell of Dell on Movies and KG of KG's Movie Rants. Having participated in 2015 and last year’s edition. It’s time once again to do another one as here are the rules:

1. Pick one movie that "everyone" loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of 75% or more on Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that "everyone" hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

4. Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own.

5. Let us know what two movies you intend on writing about in one of the following ways:

Comment on this post Comment on KG's Movie Rants Tweet me @w_ott3 Tweet KG @KGsMovieRants1

6. Publish your post on any day from Monday August 14 through Friday August 20, 2017.

Here is what I’m offering:

I don’t understand the hoopla over Amy Schumer. I tried to watch some of her standup comedy shows and I don’t think she’s funny. Even in interviews or red carpets, she will say something that is funny and I’m baffled into thinking “was this supposed to be funny?” I have nothing against plus-sized women trying to show they’re sexy as there are some like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence but Schumer is not one of them. Yet, she isn’t the only reason why I’m not fond of Trainwreck which she co-wrote and starred in as some of the reasons it’s not very good is due to its director Judd Apatow. Though Apatow has made great comedies in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, it seems like he is trying to become something more important than other comedy filmmakers by having his films be timed at over two-hours as those two films as well as Funny People and This is 40 do the same in going over two hours which is too much to do for comedies.

Though Trainwreck is a bit shorter than his last two films, it is clear that Apatow crams too much into its 124-minute running time in order to get audiences to laugh where it just feels forced and not engaging enough to be invested into this story about this young woman who finds love but has trouble trying to stay monogamous. Despite the ensemble cast that include the likes of Bill Hader, Brie Larson, and Tilda Swinton, they’re not given much to do as it’s all about Amy Schumer and the appearances from LeBron James and John Cena as the latter isn’t funny in this film. Plus, it wants to be dramatic and it wants the audience to sympathize with Schumer’s lifestyle but her character is completely pathetic and her attempts to be funny are terrible. Part of it is due to Apatow who seriously needs to hire an editor who should tell him what to cut out and try to make something shorter and to the point. Jacques Tati may have gotten away with making a 124-minute comedy with Playtime but at least that film was funny and had a great commentary on the fallacies of modernism.

The 1990s admittedly was not a good decade to be Chevy Chase. Not just for the fact that he was in some bad and mediocre films but also had his career nearly killed when he was given his own late-night talk show that sank quickly after it aired. Yet, there is one film that he did that isn’t as bad as people think it is as it’s just this very funny comedy that is quite out there but all with good reason. Directed, co-written, and starring Dan Aykroyd as a reclusive yet offbeat judge who likes to the take the law in his own hands in this remote town in the middle of New Jersey. Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, the late great Taylor Negron, and Bertila Dimas take a wrong turn and is stopped by the late great John Candy and everything goes to hell in very funny ways. Add Candy in another role as his sister and Aykroyd as a twin, overgrown baby plus an insane rollercoaster that kills people, and an appearance from one of Aykroyd’s favorite hip-hop acts in the Digital Underground with 2Pac. The result is just an insane film though flawed film. It’s got some spotty moments as some of the moments involving Chase are a bit uninspired but Aykroyd, Moore, and Candy are the ones who keep the film fun to watch.

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017


Based on a collection of short stories entitled Runaway by Alice Munro, Julieta is the story of a woman who just found the whereabouts of her long-lost daughter as she reflects on her past and the events that would shape her life. Written for the screen and directed by Pedro Almodovar, the film is a drama where a woman is eager to reconnect with her estranged daughter as well as deal with the past as the titular character is played by Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte in their respective roles as the older and younger version of the character. Also starring Inma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Daniel Grao, Michelle Jenner, and Rossy de Palma. Julieta is a ravishing yet chilling film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film follows the life of a woman who has been disconnected from her daughter for 13 years as an encounter with a friend of her daughter gives her news about her daughter’s whereabouts. This revelation would prompt Julieta to look back at her life from the moment she would meet the man who would be the father of their child to the tragedy that would shape everything. Pedro Almodovar’s screenplay would base itself on three different stories Alice Munro as it is largely told in a reflective manner by the older Julieta as she writes her story dating back to the 1980s where she was just a literature substitute teacher where she met Xoan (Daniel Grao) on a train to Madrid where Julieta encountered something horrible that would bring her and Xoan together. It’s among these series of intense moments that would affect Julieta as she would spend much of the first act with Xoan at his seaside home where he’s a fisherman while they would have a daughter in Antia with the help of a friend of his late wife in Ava (Inma Cuesta) and a longtime family maid in Marian (Rossy de Palma).

The second act isn’t just about the dysfunction in Julieta’s family life but also the events that would cause this slow rift between her and Antia (Priscilla Delgado) which would be set in Madrid for the film’s second half as Antia becomes close with her friend Beatriz (Sara Jimenez) whom she met at a summer camp. When Antia (Blanca Pares) gets older, things get more troubling as it would lead to Antia disconnecting herself from Julieta causing all sorts of things for the film’s third act. Especially when Julieta would find a new love in Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti) as she tries to not think about Antia until her encounter with Beatriz (Michelle Jenner) that changes everything. All of which would play into not just the sense of guilt that looms throughout Julieta but also grief as she would lose a lot in her life where she becomes unsure if she wants to re-establish contact with Antia.

Almodovar’s direction is definitely exquisite as it features images and compositions that are gorgeous as well as capture so much into the frame. Shot partially on Madrid with other locations in Rias Altas, La Sierra in Huelva, Pantcosa, Fanlo, and the Pyrenees Mountains, Almodovar creates a film that is quite rich in not just the different locations in Spain but also a film that showcases the different lifestyles that Julieta would endure for much of her life. While the older Julieta is seen mainly in Madrid living in somewhat-posh apartments and later returning to the more quaint apartment she had years earlier when she was living with Antia. Almodovar’s usage of the wide shots play into some of the locations as well as a few scenes at some of the homes that Julieta would go including her family country home during a visit to her parents. Yet, Almodovar would favor more intimate shots with the usage of close-ups and medium shots as he would go into great detail for the former in some shots.

There are moments in the film that do contain some element of surrealism such as the scenes on the train where Julieta and Xoan watch a stag chasing the train while Almodovar would employ some tracking shots and intricate compositions in where to place the actors in a shot. There is something masterful in the compositions that Almodovar creates as it captures so much detail into a shot as well as shooting different scenes on a particular location to play into this idea of the past and the guilt that Julieta carries as she reflects on the mistakes she made in her life as well as tragedy. Even as Almodovar is willing to do something simple as well as keep things in the open as it’s all about what is next step in Julieta’s life. Overall, Almodovar crafts an intoxicating yet haunting film about a woman looking back at the tragedies that would affect her life and relationship with her daughter.

Cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu does amazing work with the film’s very colorful and lush cinematography that feature a lot of natural images for the daytime exterior scenes with some low-key lighting for some of the interiors and scenes set at night. Editor Jose Salcedo does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some parts of the film as well as some straightforward cutting to play into the drama. Production designer Antxon Gomez, with set decorator Federico Garcia Cambero and art director Carlos Bodelon, does brilliant work with the look of the different homes that Julieta had lived in throughout her life to the posh look of the apartment she shares with Lorenzo to the quaint apartment she lived in with Antia as well as the home near the sea. Costume designer Sonia Grande does fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes that Julieta wore during the 80s and 90s to a more reserved look once she is in her 40s and 50s as it help play into the evolution of her character.

Makeup designer Ana Lopez-Puigcerver does nice work with the makeup from way Julieta looked like early on her young life with the different hairstyles and such as well as the look of Marian. The special effects work of Kings Abbots and Eduardo Diaz do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mostly set-dressing for a few shots revolving around the sea. The sound work of Sergio Burmann is superb for its natural approach to the sound as well as some of the sound effects that play into some of the key moments of the film. The film’s music by Alberto Iglesias is incredible as it features a mixture of piano-based music and heavy orchestral music that help broaden the drama as well as some of the film’s darker moments as it is a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Eva Leira and Yolanda Serrano is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Mariam Bachir as the maid for Julieta’s parents, Priscilla Delgado as the young Antia, Sara Jimenez as the young Beatriz, Pilar Castro as Beatriz’s mother Claudia, Ramon Agirre as a landlord of the apartment that Julieta used to live with Antia, Nathalie Poza as the head of a spiritual retreat compound that Antia went to before she disappeared, Joaquin Notario as Julieta’s father, Susi Sanchez as Julieta’s Alzheimer-stricken mother Sara, and Blanca Pares as the 18-year old Antia who would go on a spiritual retreat and never return without explaining to anyone including her own mother. Rossy de Palma is fantastic as Marian as Xoan’s longtime family maid who watches over everything as well as keep some very dark secrets relating to Xoan as well as some things she would tell Antia. Michelle Jenner is superb as Antia’s longtime childhood friend Beatriz who would have an encounter with Julieta as she would eventually tell her some things about Antia and why they became estranged.

Dario Grandinetti is excellent as Julieta’s current lover in Lorenzo whom Julieta would meet in life through mutual means as he wonders why Julieta has suddenly changed their plans to move to Portugal. Inma Cuesta is brilliant as Ava as a friend of Xoan who was close to Xoan’s late wife as she would befriend Julieta as well as provide some information about what Marian told Antia later in the film. Daniel Grao is amazing as Xoan as a fisherman who would meet Julieta at a train as they fall in love and have a family as he’s this quiet man that loves to fish as he also keeps some secrets from Julieta. Finally, there’s Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as the younger and older version of the titular character. Ugarte brings an anguish and melodrama to her approach as the young Julieta as a woman trying to find herself and be a working mother as well as cope with the tragedies in and around her life. Suarez’s performance as the older Julieta is more reserved as someone who has been through a lot yet there is a sequence that showcases the sense of hurt and anger as someone who felt betrayed and heartbroken.

Julieta is a spectacular film from Pedro Almodovar that features sensational performances from Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte in the titular role. Along with its gorgeous visuals, top-notch technical work, a sumptuous score by Alberto Iglesias, a great supporting cast, and an engaging take on grief and guilt. It’s a film that explores loss in a lot of ways as well as a woman dealing with the events in her life and wondering what she could’ve done to change them. In the end, Julieta is a tremendous film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - Law of Desire - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All About My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited!

The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Written, co-edited, and directed by Mark Hartley, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is about the film studio that was known for releasing low-budget to medium-budget films during the 1980s as it was run by the cousins of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who would make the studio successful but also notorious. The film is a documentary that explores the studio’s rise and eventual fall in the 1990s as it feature interviews with the many actors and filmmakers who were involved in the films made by the studio. The result is a fascinating and exciting film from Mark Hartley.

In the 1980s, the independent studio known as Cannon Films were creating films that catered to a demographic that just wanted loud, high-octane action, schlock-based films with cheesy special effects, movies with ladies with gorgeous breasts, and all sorts of crazy things all in the name of just wanting to be entertaining. Running this studio were Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus as they were about presenting any financier with money with ideas they believe would make money and the financiers would give it to them not knowing what they would get. Much of the output of the studio ranged from genre-based films as well as a few auteur-based films from such filmmakers as Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, Barbet Schroeder, Godfrey Reggio, and Nicholas Roeg.

Though the studio was founded in the late 1960s by Dennis Friedland and Christopher C. Dewey as a distributor to Swedish porn films re-dubbed in English and later getting success through the release of John G. Avildsen’s film Joe. It was when Golan and Globus that would buy the studio in 1979 for half-a-million dollars as they initially use it for the films that Golan had directed as well as other films. Much of the film feature interview with not just the people who worked at Cannon with Golan and Globus but also filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper, Franco Zeffirelli, John G. Avildsen, Albert Pyun, and Boaz Davidson who made films for the studio. Even actors such as Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Forster, Cassandra Petersen, Bo Derek, Olivia d’Abo, Michael Dudikoff, Sybil Danning, Franco Nero, and Molly Ringwald talk about their own experiences working on a film under the Cannon Films banner.

Director Mark Hartley would go for something straightforward with the interviews with the aid of cinematographer Garry Richards while he and co-editors Jamie Blanks and Sara Edwards would compile many films from the Cannon library to showcase its history. Notably in how it rose through a brief partnership with MGM in the early 80s before becoming completely independent where financial deals with foreign financiers by selling them posters and big billboards for films that were either made or not as they would use the Cannes Film Festival for these buys. Golan was the filmmaker who cared about his product as he would tell the filmmakers working for him what he wants while Globus was the man running the business as both of them would sell their products to international buyers and make a lot of money along the way. They would use the money to make films and whatever money is made from that film would go into another production. For a few years, it would work but they had a hard time gaining respectability from Hollywood due to the films that were made as well as being a serious competition to the studios.

Hartley would play into the downfall of the studio not just through the studio’s attempt for respectability and needing to compete with studios despite having a major advantage in the international market. It was through some big-budget flops as films like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Masters of the Universe, and Golan’s Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone that would hurt the studio. The financial issues of Cannon would affect other films in the making until 1989 where a deal with the Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti would end up being the end due to Parretti’s financial schemes as Golan and Globus parted ways where the former formed a new studio as the two competed against with one another by producing a film each related to the Lambada dance craze in Golan’s The Forbidden Dance and Globus’ Lambada were released on the same day as both films flopped.

With the help of sound recordist Jock Healy, Hartley would use sound from other films as well as showcase things that help play into Cannon’s rise and fall but also the appreciation for the films by those who were involved and such. The film’s music by Jamie Blanks is terrific as it’s mostly a low-key electronic score that play into some of the over-the-top music of those films.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is an incredible film from Mark Hartley. Not only is it an entertaining documentary about one of the most creative studios in cinema but also the two men who were willing to stand out and give people something they could enjoy no matter how bad some of those films were. In the end, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a remarkable film from Mark Hartley.

© thevoid99 2017